Belize is a small country of 8,867 square miles that sits on the northeastern coast of Central America. Formerly called British Honduras, it lies just below Mexico and is bordered by the Caribbean Sea on the East and Guatemala on the West and South.
With a population of a little over 331,000 people, Belize is a rapidly developing country, and the only English speaking country in Central America. This fact has made it both a widely attractive tourist and expat relocation spot.
Belizeans are a mixture of several different ethnic backgrounds, including Maya, Creole, Spanish, Mestizo (Mayan and Spanish), Garifuna, and a sprinkling of Chinese, Caucasian, and East Indian.
Belize is a popular eco-tourism destination. It lays claim to the largest Barrier Reef in the Western Hemisphere, the very popular Blue Hole, over 200 sand islands, three of four atolls in the Atlantic, the only Jaguar Preserve in the world, and over 540 exotic bird species.
In addition, numerous ancient Mayan cities exist in Belize, such as Xunantunich, Cerros, and Lamanai, to name a few. You can also find here Maya mountains that soar 3000 feet into the sky, complex cave systems, and at Mountain Pine Ridge, the only pine forest in all of Central America.
Belize has four major highways: the Northern Highway, connecting Belize City with Chetumal on the Mexican Border; the Western Highway, connecting Belize City with Belmopan and continuing to the border with Guatemala; and the Hummingbird Highway, which links to the Southern Highway, connecting travelers to the Stann Creek and Toledo Districts. In Belize, you drive on the right side of the road, just like in the U.S.
Regular bus services operate to and from all main towns, and Belize offers an extensive taxi service as well. In addition, two locally operated airlines operate inner-country routes (Tropic Air and Maya Island Air). There are also many ferry companies which can transport you to the islands of Ambergris Caye and/or Caye Caulker.
Belize has six Districts spread across 172 miles, each with its own unique personality:
Cayo: This district is the premier eco-tourist vacation destination in Belize, with rivers, rainforests, and ruins spread out over 2,000 square miles. With an astounding 880,000 acres of protected areas, nature reserves, and national parks (Blue Hole and Guanacaste), the Cayo District offers a dizzying array of activities to choose from, such as kayaking, cave tubing, hiking, horseback riding, and more. Belmopan, the nation’s capital, is located about 25 miles East of San Ignacio Town, the district’s capital. With almost 67,000 people, this district is located in Western Belize, making tours to Tikal National Park very convenient, since the Guatemalan border is just a 15 minute ride from San Ignacio Town.
Corozal: Best known for Corozal Town, a quaint seaside community located next to the beautiful Corozal Bay, it is the northernmost district of Belize. With a population of over 35,000 residents, here you can find the pre-Columbian Maya ruins at Santa Rita and Cerros. Corozal’s proximity to the Mexican border and Chetumal’s Free-Zone (only nine miles away) make it an ideal spot for quick shopping jaunts or taking in an afternoon matinee. Other notable attractions are its proximity via ferry to both Sarteneja and the island of Ambergris Caye, boating, nature trails, swimming, and fly fishing. The market is open most days of the week, and you can spend Sunday’s at the Corozal Town Central Park.
Orange Walk: The third largest district in the country, Orange Walk’s capital is Orange Walk Town, better known as “Sugar City.” With 47,000 residents, this is where you can find the Rio Hondo and New River, as well as Belize’s largest body of water, The New River Lagoon. Largely a agricultural community, although beef and dairy production are on the rise, Orange Walk is most noteworthy for the distinction of being home to the ancient Maya ruin of Lamanai. With over 540 species of birds being recorded in Belize, Orange Walk itself has over 400, making it a very popular eco-tourism location, and a favorite among birders. Other towns and significant villages in this district are Carmelita, Shipyard, Indian Church, and Trial Farm.
Belize: Belize City is Belize’s only genuine city, and with over 87,000 people, is a bustling area, and the only one some people who come here on cruise ships ever see. With the Philip R. Goldson International Airport located here as well, Belize City is most tourists’ launching off point. In the city, you can find shopping, sports, restaurants, and a festival or party of some sort practically every weekend. Also located in Belize District are two of the country’s most popular islands, Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, which can be reached in under 90 minutes by ferry, or 20 minutes by plane. There you will find the “true” Caribbean, with turquoise waters, white sand beaches, and swaying palm trees, which lure thousands of travelers every year.
Stann Creek: A district of approximately 30,000 people, Dangriga is the area’s capital and home to the Garifuna, decedents of shipwrecked slaves and native Caribs. Their unique cultural and ethnic traditions allow you to experience a wide-range of music, art, and nightlife. Further South, along the beautiful and scenic Hummingbird Highway, you will find the small village of Hopkins, another Garifuna community located on the Sittee River. After that, you have Placencia, a 16-mile stretch of peninsula that is home to Maya Beach, Seine Bight, and Placencia Village proper. With the lagoon on one side and the Caribbean Sea on the other, this area is a wonderful jumping off spot for boating, snorkeling and scuba diving activities. Or you can just chill and enjoy the old-fashioned village life, strolling along the “narrowest street in the world.” Some other notable attractions in this area are Cocksomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and the Monkey River.
Toledo: The Southern-most district in Belize, as well as the smallest (with roughly 27,600 people), this area is most well-known for its agriculture and fishing. However, here you will also find entrance to lush rainforests, waterfalls, and rivers, extensive cave systems, and numerous national parks and protected areas teeming with wildlife. The largest city in the area is Punta Gorda, which the English-speaking Garifuna inhabitants affectionately call “PG.” In town, you can find the local market, or head on over to The Public Dock and take a quick boat trip to Guatemala and visit Livingston.
Belizean currency is 2:1 with U.S. currency. In Belize, USD is widely accepted and exchanging money is not necessary. ATMs are on international networks, accepting Visa, MasterCard, Plus, and Cirrus cards and can be found in all of the major towns and villages.
When you visit Belize and stay at one of Red Roof Property Management’s Vacation Rentals, we have a network of experienced and reliable tour guides who can help you arrange and customize your itinerary, so that you have a vacation to remember. Don’t let another year pass without coming to explore all that Belize has to offer!